Saturday, May 28, 2011

IN MEMORY OF GIL SCOTT-HERON, here is a selection of his poetry and music. Click here to listen to the following songs:
  1. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  2. Sex Education Ghetto Style
  3. No Knock
  4. Lady Day and John Coltrane
  5. Pieces of a Man
  6. Whitey On the Moon
  7. The Bottle
  8. H20gate Blues
  9. Winter in America (Live)
  10. I Think I'll Call It Morning

Friday, May 27, 2011

HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY VINCENT PRICE! That's right, our Vinnie was born 100 years ago today May 27, 1911. Join us over at our audio blog and help us celebrate the life of the Master of Menace. As for Vincent Price's films, the task of choosing my top ten favourites is daunting but I think I've managed to do it. Here they are in chronological order:
LAURA (1944)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ACTOR PAUL GIAMATTI PUTS SO MUCH OF HIMSELF INTO HIS ROLES THAT HE FINDS HIS MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH IS SUFFERING. He then stumbles across an ad in the paper for a service called "Soul Storage" in which you can have your soul physically removed from your body in order to lighten your load and eliminate many of those pesky problems possessing a soul entails. This is the admittedly wacky, dream-like premise of writer/director Sophie Barthes' 2009 film COLD SOULS. The genesis of such a movie arose from a reading of Carl Jung's "Man In Search Of A Soul" combined with a viewing of Woody Allen's film SLEEPER. She went to sleep (presumably after also dining on dressed shellfish) and dreamed of a strange, futuristic office in which many people (including Woody Allen) were queueing up with boxes which contained their souls. Woody looked inside his box and found his soul unprepossessingly resembled a chick pea. Before Barthes could look at her soul, she woke up. She thought this would make an interesting movie and commenced on making one. Having seen Paul Giamatti's performance as Harvey Pekar in AMERICAN SPLENDOR, Barthes showed the actor the script and he enthusiastically signed on.
Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti; an actor who is appearing in a stage production of UNCLE VANYA. He finds the role so demanding that it's taking a physical toll on him and making him an emotional wreck. After seeing the aforementioned "Soul Storage" advert in "The New Yorker" magazine, Paul ends up in the futuristic office of Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn) who offers a medical procedure which can remove and store the soul. Most souls, when removed from the body, resemble black or gray lumps and are stored in glass canisters in a storage facility. After much self-debate, Giamatti agrees to have his soul removed; the actor is nonplussed to discover his soul resembled a tiny chick pea. Dr. Flintstein assures him that the size and appearance of a soul has no bearing on its quality. After his soul is removed, Giamatti finds himself feeling much "lighter" and is no longer tortured by mental and emotional stress resulting from his role as Uncle Vanya. However, his acting suffers drastically.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that there is a black market in stolen souls. Shady Russian soul traffickers obtain requested types of souls for a price. They utilize a stable of "mules": women who have had their own souls removed and therefore can have stolen souls implanted inside them so they may carry them across international boundaries to deliver the hot souls to the customer. One such "mule" named Nina (Dina Korzun) manages to steal Giamatti's soul for her Russian boss' wife who happens to be an actress (a bad one) in a Russian soap opera. The wife Sveta (Katheryn Winnick) thinks she has purchased the soul of Al Pacino but sadly that soul was unavailable; the only "good actor" soul Nina could find was Paul Giamatti's. Nina uploads Giamatti's soul and takes it to Russia where Sveta uses it to become a fine actress. Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti is concerned about how he has been behaving without his soul and wants it back. When Giamatti goes to retrieve his soul, he finds the storage box empty. Dr. Flintstein has some bad news; Giamatti's soul seems to have been "misplaced". While they do their best to recover it (it's probably been shipped to New Jersey for storage, Flintstein suggests), Giamatti has the soul of a Russian poet uploaded into him for the meantime. Having carried Giamatti's soul, Nina finds herself strangely drawn to watch Giamatti's films and, through a serious of events, Nina and Paul meet up and the soul theft is revealed. Giamatti insists that Nina take him to her boss in Russia to get his soul back. This they do but convincing Sveta not only that the soul she possesses ISN'T Al Pacino's but also that she should give it back to Giamatti is not going to be an easy sell.
COLD SOULS is indeed a very interesting film. While it certainly is worth watching, I cannot say that I actually enjoyed it overmuch. In fact, the film is very downbeat which surprised me. I expected more of a lighter feel to the film but obviously its soul is weighing the film down because at times it seems rather heavy going. This is not necessarily a criticism; only a misconception on my part about what the movie would be like. The film is deliberately shot in cold, bleak tones; especially in the Russian winter scenes. After all, the film is called COLD SOULS so its probably silly to expect much warmth from it. But don't get me wrong. The film is actually funny; but the humour arises from the situations and there are no belly laughs. There is a wry humour going on which necessarily comes from a rather dark place. Again, this is not a bad thing. The performances are all uniformly excellent. Giamatti, Korzun and Strathairn are wonderfully good as are Emily Watson as Giamatti's wife and Katheryn Winnick as the vacuous soap actress who suddenly obtains real talent and refuses to relinquish it. Barthe's script is very detailed and thought out; she takes the "soul storage" concept to its logical conclusion and gives us an intricate entire new world to play in. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of "play" going on but quite a lot of angst and misery. Usually, I love that kinda stuff but even I, in my morbid depths, found it to be a bit of a downer. All in all, COLD SOULS is definitely worth a look but only when forearmed with the above warning. The film has been criticized by some for being a little too reminiscent of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH; it is true that, while certainly not a ripoff of that earlier film, COLD SOULS did remind me quite a lot of it. Of course, MALKOVICH was much more light-hearted than SOULS and therefore probably much more enjoyable. However, I think the "ripoff" charge is too extreme. There are definite similarities but both are very different films. And yes, folks, if you are finding yourself weighed down by your own souls, the "Soul Storage" company is in fact an actual real company and you can have your soul stored by clicking here for the company's website. Go over and get happy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Movies cost so much to make that they're mostly produced according to formulas (sic) and aimed at a lowest-common-denominator audience. The Hollywood filmmakers know what that audience wants, because it's what THEY want -- they're not selling out -- they LIKE garbage. FORREST GUMP had to be done by people who thought a screenplay full of the contrived devices and feeble sentimentality they used was clever, maybe even profound."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A BOX OF POPCORN KERNELS: LITTLE SNIPPETS ABOUT SOME MOVIES I WATCHED RECENTLY. ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL (2008) is a celebrated rockumentary about the metal gods that never were. The Canadian heavy metal group Anvil was primed to take the music world by storm about 30 years ago. Their LP "Metal On Metal" was well-received and had a lot of fans but the band just faded away. Nowadays singer/guitarist "Lips" works in food delivery and drummer Robb Reiner does construction. However, now in their fifties, both men refuse to give up on their heavy metal dreams. The documentary charmingly introduces us to the band, their music and their endless supply of optimism that they will get a new album recorded and a new tour undertaken. And after fighting tooth and nail they succeed in doing both. It's hard to call a heavy metal band "heartwarming" but Anvil comes the closest with their underdog tale of perseverance. The critical success of the documentary has raised the band's profile in the lasts couple years leading to media appearance on, among others, THAT METAL SHOW; on which they performed live such songs as "Metal On Metal" and "March of the Crabs". Well done, you big lugs!
BAGDAD CAFE (1987) is one of those movies which begs to be called "quirky". And this it certainly is. A broken-down cafe/gas station/motel in the middle of the desert seems to collect bizarre characters like barnacles. CCH Pounder as the extremely loud owner of the cafe is wonderful and Marianne Sagebrecht as the wandering German tourist who winds up at the Bagdad Cafe is simply sublime. Jack Palance also stars as a sort-of vagabond artist. Disfunctional relationships are epidemic but the film is fascinating to watch unfold. A slightly dodgy, seemingly forced penultimate scene doesn't manage to sink an otherwise delightful film full of oddballs.
THE KING'S SPEECH (2010) predictably won the Best Picture Oscar. I haven't really seen the other nominees but this film certainly isn't "best picture" calibre. It's a nice enough movie; don't get me wrong. However it's oddly cold and uninvolving. Colin Firth's performance is fine (frankly he did more impressive acting in DORIAN GRAY) and Geoffrey Rush's performance is . . . not so hot. Helena Bonham-Carter is surprisingly fun as the Queen and Guy Pearce is woefully miscast as abdicating Eddie. The film seemed more like a TV movie and I can't think of any reason why it won best picture other than Hollywood's continuing tendency to vote for something "respectable". Perhaps another director could've brought more verve to the film or at least have conjured a little tension or suspense. Oddly many of the most historical, interesting and suspenseful events take place off screen i.e. the crisis leading up to Edward's abdication and the governmental struggles which resulted in Neville Chamberlain becoming PM and, subsequently, stepping down in favour of Winston Churchill. Granted, the film isn't specifically about these events (although they are integral to the plot) but perhaps that leads us to question whether a film should've been made about these subjects instead of the admittedly weak theatrical potential which finds the climax of a film the delivery of a radio speech.
THE LAST SUNSET (1961) is a Western directed by Robert Aldrich starring a strong cast including Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, Carol Lynley and Joseph Cotten. Ah, what a mess! Kirk is an outlaw type who rides in on his old flame Dorothy Malone who is married to a drunken coward (Joseph Cotten) who is planning a cattle drive across country from Mexico to Texas. Lawman Rock Hudson is chasing Kirk with a warrant and plans to haul him in once they cross the border into his Texas jurisdiction. We are of course meant to identify with Kirk despite the fact that he is responsible for the death of Rock's brother-in-law and sister (who hanged herself in grief). Revenge-seeking Rock Hudson agrees to help Kirk on the cattle drive because . . . well, I don't really know. If all this doesn't make much sense, that's because the whole movie doesn't make much sense. Everyone's motivations seem to change from scene to scene. One minute Rock is out for Kirk's blood and the next he's grinning at some of Kirk's silly antics. Dorothy Malone clearly doesn't love her older husband and is strongly drawn to her old flame Kirk Douglas; until of course she falls in love with Rock Hudson instead in seemingly one afternoon. Kirk, who's been carrying a flame for Malone all these years, sees Hudson and Malone canoodling and, after about 5 minutes, decides to marry Malone's daughter Carol Lynley. And Joseph Cotten is removed from the film halfway through in so convenient a manner it's insulting. I guess while Kirk and Rock are tossing Dorothy back and forth there's simply no more screen time left for Cotten. Give this one a miss, folks, and watch RED RIVER instead.
SUGAR HILL (1974) is one of those AIP pictures which combines its traditional bread and butter (horror) with the new cash cow blaxploitation. This, however, is towards the end of that cycle. The film is a revenge movie featuring Marki Bey as "Sugar" Hill who seeks revenge on local crime lord Robert Quarry for the death of her sweetie. Marki heads into the bayou to plead with voodoo priestess Zara Culley (Mother Jefferson from TV's THE JEFFERSONS) for the power to seek vengeance. Sugar gives her soul to voodoo god Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) in return for voodoo powers and zombie minions. Marki Bey apparently never made another movie and maybe it's easy to see why. She doesn't do so well with crying or simple emoting; however she is rather wonderful during her vengeful moments. In comparison with most of the "Twinkie starlets" cluttering up movie screens these days, Marki Bey is a regular Judi Densch! Quarry is his usual wonderful bitchy self dismissing his blonde bimbo's advances and even cuddling with a poodle! Colley seems to have wandered in from another movie; however that's not a bad thing. His Baron Samedi is over-the-top and bombastic and sometime I expected him to break out in a sales pitch for the un-cola! The zombies of SUGAR HILL are actually very effective in a stylized way; they are always covered in nice cobwebs and their large, blank eyes are much like those featured in the Doctor Who adventure THE CLAWS OF AXOS with Jon Pertwee -- that is, almost like silvery ping pong balls. While no brain-eating goes on, the zombies are suitably creepy. All in all, well worth an hour and a half of your time.
The BBC's 1983 teleproduction of MACBETH starring Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire is good but not great. I don't seem to be able to find a truly satisfying version of the Scottish play. The earlier BBC production of the 1970's starring a young Ian McKellan and Judi Densch is VERY unsatisfying; in other words, I didn't like that one at all! This 1983 version is quite a notch better. While I adore both Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire (both extremely quirky and interesting actors) I found them both rather tame in this one and the line readings lacked a good deal of emotion and actual connection with the material. Williamson fared far better when he played HAMLET. When all is said and done, this 1983 version of MACBETH will do until a better one comes along. If it ever does.
EAT PRAY LOVE (2010) is the true story of writer Elizabeth Gilbert's crisis of self which caused her to end her marriage and take a year to travel to Italy, India and Bali. For an "Oprah book", EAT PRAY LOVE is refreshingly non-male-hating. While I have not read the book, I actually found the movie quite good. Granted, it's "Hollywooded-up" with Julia Roberts as Liz but I actually found her to be wonderful in the role; she brings a depth of emotion to her acting which this particular non-Julia fan found surprising. Javier Bardem is also very good but the standout performance is by Richard Jenkins as Richard from Texas who actually deserved an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, I think. The film is perhaps a little reminiscent of UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (a film for which I admit to a great fondness) but it's good enough to stand on its own. And hey, the script was co-written by Eunice from SOAP so what's not to like?!?
CINEMA VERITE (2011) is the highly touted HBO movie about probably the original "reality TV" show from the early 1970s: AN AMERICAN FAMILY. Cameras followed around the "typical American family" the Louds during a time when coincidentally the family decided to self-destruct. Dad's philandering prompted Mom to kick him out of the house and file for divorce and oldest son Lance became the first openly gay man on US television. All this while the cameras were rolling. Now Tim Robbins and Diane Lane portray Mr. and Mrs. Loud in this new film version telling what happened behind as well as in front of the cameras. While watching the film I found myself wondering exactly what the point of it all was. Frankly, the HBO film seemed to be rather done by rote and didn't add anything to the story. In fact, the fact that actors are re-enacting events which we saw happen in reality on AN AMERICAN FAMILY made the whole thing seem redundant and needless. Robbins and Lane are adequate enough, I suppose, but they can't hold a candle to the real Louds. My reaction by the end of CINEMA VERITE was a sighed "so what". It seems to me all the effort went into recreating the original scenes technically than in emotionally involving the audience in the story. Oddly, the 2011 HBO movie seemed a coldly technical exercise while the original AN AMERICAN FAMILY documentary/reality series had the drama and emotion. If you wanna know the real story, go watch the original series.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

AS WEAVERMAN RECENTLY POINTED OUT, THE WARNER ARCHIVES "BURN 'EM AS YOU WANT 'EM" DVDS HAVE THE CLASSIC 1926 SILENT FILM "THE MAGICIAN" AVAILABLE AT LONG LAST. Sadly, those on the other side of the pond don't have access to it but yours truly do-ly. This is one of those films which most of us have only heard about from countless reference books and assorted movie stills reproduced in the hallowed pages of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine. The real one. Nevertheless here it is unveiled before my bloodshot eyes at long last. As is the case with many unseen silent films, the buildup of expectations over the years may lead to an inevitable sense of disappointment when we actually get to see the thing. However, this time that's not the case as Rex Ingram's "THE MAGICIAN" is a briskly paced, always interesting silent horror film which can be enjoyed without making any allowances.
The film itself is based on the 1908 Somerset Maugham novel of the same name and the author apparently received a snippy letter from Aleister Crowley saying that Maugham had ripped off his life story. This is all well and good - I haven't read the book - but as far as the movie version is concerned there's nothing to that claim other than the fact that the film hinges on a master magician. In fact, despite the well-known "going to Hell" sequence which we've seen so many stills from, the film itself to my mind is actually more like a version of "TRILBY" (or "SVENGALI" as it's more widely known nowadays) with chunks of "FRANKENSTEIN" and "HAXAN" thrown in. Oh, and a lengthy carnival/circus sequence foreshadows the later Universal version of "MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE" with Bela Lugosi's Dr. Mirakle as well as an operation theme which foretells some of the Lugosi/Karloff co-starrer "THE RAVEN". A sculptor Margaret (played by the director's wife Alice Terry) is carving an elaborate gothic statue of a satyr when the damn thing collapses on top of her. The young woman is paralysed. Margaret's uncle Dr. Porhoet (Firmin Gemier) pleads with surgeon Arthur Burdon (Ivan Petrovich) to cure her and he does so. Apparently Dr. Jack Shepherd was busy. The lady regains her mobility and the two fall in love (all of which will seem familiar if you've seen the later film "THE RAVEN"). However, the operation has been observed by an unhinged-looking mage named Oliver Haddo (the great Paul Wegener) who is interested in conducting insane mystical experiments to create life. While monkeying around in the library, Haddo finds an ancient magical tome which informs him that he can create life by using the heart's blood of a fair young maiden. Guess who fits THAT bill, gang!(Here we have some foreshadowing of Robert Florey's MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE to come) Haddo makes a pest of himself trying to win over Margaret; when this doesn't appear to be working too quickly he resorts to hypnotism (we're in SVENGALI territory now) until the young woman loses all her will power and even consents to marry the magician. Uncle Poerhoet and Dr. Burdon trail the couple from place to place - the couple spend some time in Monte Carlo cheating the casinos with Haddo's mind power - until Haddo takes his "wife" (in name only, we are assured -- a satanic black magician would certiainly never dream of forcing himself on a hypnotised nubile blonde! What's wrong with you?!?) back to his tower laboratory (a huge influence on James Whale's later FRANKENSTEIN film) where he intends to create life with the aid of some convenient fair maiden heart blood.
Of course, the basic storyline follows the SVENGALI story skeleton fairly closely with the added-on Frankenstein-meets-alchemy creation of life theme. The justly celebrated "Hell" scene is in fact a vision hypnotically conjured up by Haddo for Margaret's benefit. And it is, of course, the showcase (however brief) of the entire film. Tinted devil red, the sequence features the famous prancing satyr performance of Stowitts and he cavorts practically naked around the Dantean sets. Wegener, who is one of the few actors who needs no "horror makeup" to be truly disturbing and frightening, leers demonically with his hair squeezed into to horn-like shapes. The sequence can't help but remind anyone of Benjamin Christensen's HAXAN or WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES. The tower laboratory set, as noted, was apparently studied by James Whale as he prepared his production of FRANKENSTEIN for Universal and one can certainly see the influence of Ingram's film on that later classic. Don't think for one minute, however, that the rest of the film not featuring "Hell" or the lab are tedious and draggy because they are not. The opening sequence in the artists studio involving Margaret's saturnine sculpture sets the tone right away with interesting visuals and characters. In fact, another female artist in the studio is working on a painting of a sunset (or is it a sunrise? -- she can't seem to make up her addled mind) which I'm dying to hang on my wall! As stated, the film rockets along and barely drags at all; perhaps a teeny bit during the requisite romantic love scenes but these are kept thankfully short and do not try one's patience in the slightest. A rarity in such an early film; movies of the 1930's could've learned a thing or two from the brevity of Ingram's love scenes. They are slow death for a horror film and THE MAGICAN thankfully avoids that pitfall. The performance of Alice Terry as our heroine is above average and one really feels for her emotionally; she avoids the stagey "silent film acting style" and brings an emotional depth to the part. No nepotism in her casting, Mr. Director sir! Well done! Petrovich and Gemier are adequate and watchable. Of course, the spectacular Paul Wegener (DER GOLEM's daddy) gives a wonderfully bombastic theatrical performance which suits the character of the black magician Oliver Haddo. Wegener's face was naturally even more satyr-like than Jack Palance and he actually looks scarier here than when buried under all that Golem makeup which frankly got in the way of his demonic visage. The photography throughout the film is masterful, painterly and dynamic; nothing less could be expected from veteran cinematographer John F. Seitz. And the direction by Rex Ingram, as I've said, is the briskest of the brisk keeping things moving along so well that the film seems to last far shorter than its actual running time. As a true classic of the silent horror film era, THE MAGICIAN can hold its own amongst the best of them.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

1961: SOME FAVOURITE FILMS FROM 50 YEARS AGO. Once again it's time to present my ten fave films released half a century ago. As I've stated each year since beginning this foolishness, these aren't necessarily the best movies from the year but only my 10 favourite ones which I revisit again and again. Here they are in alphabetical ordre:
  1. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S - Blake Edwards' adaptation of Truman Capote's (and this won't be the last time Tru appears on this list) novel starring an effervescent Audrey Hepburn as the iconic Holly Golightly. Also featuring a dewey George Peppard as the ho and Patricia Neal as his sugar mama, a touching Buddy Ebsen and an offensive Mickey Rooney (of course when ISN'T Mickey Rooney offensive?!?). A hollywood snapshot of a time long gone.
  2. EL CID - The height of the massive, overblown . . . I would use the word "turgid" Hollywood historical epic directed by Anthony Mann (in the 3rd phase of his career after his 1st noir period and 2nd western period). Starring the king of turgid Hollywood epic's: Charlton Heston as the legendary 11th century Spanish warlord whose biggest battle occurred while he was a dead'un. Famously starring Sophia Loren who refused to allow herself to be seen with "old age makeup" despite the passing of decades in the film; result being that Heston ages significantly while Loren stays fresh as a daisy. Also stars Michael Hordern, Hurd (Dorian Gray) Hatfield and Herbert Lom.
  3. THE INNOCENTS - Jack Clayton's masterful adaptation of Henry James' ghost story (or is it?) "Turn of the Screw" co-scripted by Truman Capote finds the magnificent Deborah Kerr starring as the repressed governess who suspects her two young charges (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) are possessed by ghosts. Also features Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins and a cameo by Sir Michael Redgrave.
  4. JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG - Typically overheated Stanley Kramer depiction of the 1948 trial of four Nazi judges for war crimes stars an all-star cast: Spencer Tracy, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Montgomery Clift, Werner (Colonel Klink) Klemperer and it even has the Shat!
  5. LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD - Alain Resnais' lyrical, mysterious and puzzling masterpiece set in a huge otherworldly hotel starring the exquisite Delphine Seyrig as the married woman whom a stranger tries to convince to run away with him; insisting that they may (or may not) have had an affair last year. . .but she doesn't remember. Beautiful film.
  6. THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM - The second in Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe series for American International stars Vincent Price at his over-the-top best! The script once again by Richard Matheson has absolutely nothing to do with Poe but does anybody really care. Featuring a small role by the great Barbara Steele, the cast also includes Luana (DEMENTIA 13) Anders and Anthony (CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA) Carbone. The film also features one of the best "busses" in the entire Poe series.
  7. THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY - the first in Ingmar Bergman's so-called "God" trilogy tells the story of a mentally ill woman returning to her family home on a remote island. During the course of the film, her sanity slowly slips away. Harriet Anderssen gives one of the greatest performances by any actor or actress in any film ever! Also starring Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand and Lars Passgard in exceptional performances.
  8. VIRIDIANA - Luis Bunuel is at it again! The story of a young novice who visits her uncle before taking her final vows as a nun. Unfortunately, she resembles her uncle's late wife. And tragedy, as they say, ensues. Sylvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal and Fernando Rey star.
  9. WHAT A CARVE-UP! - I don't know why I love this movie but I do. A pair of bumbling nitwits visit a creepy old mansion when one of them inherits from a dead uncle. A British old dark house comedy which often is called a remake of THE GHOUL but I don't see it - except very loosely. Wonderful British character actors abound: Kenneth Connor, Sid James, Michael Gough, Donald Pleasance, Shirley Eaton, Dennis Price, George Woodbridge, Michael Gwynne, Valerie Taylor...and even an Adam Faith cameo.
  10. YOJIMBO - Akira Kurosawa's homage to American Westerns. A wandering ronin comes to town and finds two warring factions battling for control. He plays one against the other in order to free the town from mayhem. Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura star.